Like many folks interested in new music, I’m in the process of reading Alex Ross’s just published book, The Rest is Noise. It’s a great read and has been a fabulous distraction during my hour-long daily commute. I’ve been so engrossed in it at points that I’ve been upset when the subway has reached my stop. Perhaps the MTA should consider giving away copies of this book when they announce their fare hike!
Anyway, Ross made a provocative comment on a page I just passed this morning which I thought might trigger some reflection here: “One way or another, all American composers are invisible men.” Ross’s generalization, which implies an ongoing syndrome, served as a philosophical backdrop for a recounting of the travails of composers ranging from Charles Ives and George Gershwin to Will Marion Cook and Duke Ellington. But Ross himself—in an article appearing in this week’s issue of The New Yorker (“The Well-Tempered Web“)—offers a fascinating refutation to this condition through the staggering success of classical music, particularly new music, on the web. According to his assessment, the internet has allowed anyone, especially composers, to be visible to a larger community than ever before in history:
Some recent articles have asked whether the Internet can save classical music. Classical music is, in fact, saving itself; Internet activity is merely the most immediately visible evidence of its refusal to fade away. Younger musicians, in particular, are using every available means to reach a potential public that is far larger than the one that already exists. They are not haunted, as older musicians often are, by nostalgia for a time when Bernstein appeared on the cover of Time and Toscanini was a star of NBC radio. Instead, they see the labyrinth of long-tail culture as an open field of opportunity; they measure success in small leaps.
So, in that spirit, we’d like to invite you to use this space, which is a completely open forum that anyone can contribute to on equal footing, to highlight a few people involved with new music in your aesthetic neck of the woods. While a mention here on NewMusicBox might not be able to turn these folks into household names, a la the next American Idol or the next Food Network Star, with over 50,000 unique visitors every month, who can truly anticipate the ripple effect it might have?